The Land that Time Forgot (1975)

Article #1765 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-13-2006
Posting Date: 6-12-2006
Directed by Kevin Connor
Featuring Doug McClure, John McEnery, Susan Penhaligon

A small boat of survivors of a sunken British ship manage to capture a German U-Boat, but in the ensuing power struggle, they get lost in the ocean. They manage to find a previously undiscovered prehistoric world called Caprona.

This was the first of four adventure movies directed by Kevin Connor and starring Doug McClure that were made in the mid-to-late seventies; I’ve already covered the last one, WARLORDS OF ATLANTIS for this series. Though none of them are very good, there seems to be a certain amount of affection for the series, and even I, who never warmed to them, feel reluctant to dwell on their flaws. I think it might be because I admire these movies for the modesty of their goals and their lack of pretension. At heart, they were trying to revive and old-fashioned type of adventure story that had almost vanished in cinema at that time, and even if I don’t warm to the movies themselves, I warm to the concept. Yes, the special effects are often less than convincing, but they’re not so bad that they merely become laughable, and I would imagine that anyone who came to these movies for the sole purpose of having a good time would find them acceptable. In fact, there were certain elements of this movie I really liked; the concept that as you go further north in Caprona, the evolutionary level progresses, and my favorite moment is the one where the primitive caveman Ahm leaves his new companions and joins another tribe as he moves up the ladder of evolution himself. Still, I wish the movie really did more with the concept. My favorite character is probably that of the U-Boat commander, Captin Von Shoenvorts, and I was about to praise the performance of John McEnery, but I just discovered that his voice was dubbed by Anton Diffring in this movie, so both actors merit a mention in this regard. The cast also includes Anthony Ainley, who would take over the role of The Master on “Doctor Who” in a few years.

The Legend of Lylah Clare (1968)

Article #1731 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-10-2005
Posting Date; 5-9-2006
Directed by Robert Aldrich
Featuring Kim Novak, Peter Finch, Ernest Borgnine

A director hoping to shoot a biopic about a famous actress who died under strange circumstances discovers a woman who looks identical to her, and decides to prepare her for the role. However, the woman’s mousy character starts to give way to the personality of the actress she’s portraying.

Robert Aldrich made some classic movies, but this isn’t one of them. Even its supporters seem to like it mainly for its campy bad-movie elements. Though I will admit to liking many bad movies for precisely the same reason, this type of bad movie isn’t my cup of tea. The fantastic element is a bit of a question mark; has the woman hired to play the role of Lylah Clare actually been possessed by her spirit? The trouble is (from the position of verifying its fantastic content) that the movie never really addresses this issue; it’s too busy presenting us with its succession of Hollywood stereotypes and movie-making cliches. It’s one of those movies where too many women speak with (supposedly sexy but bad) foreign accents, too many arrogant, egotistical and/or bitchy characters show up, and the human elements and the satirical jabs get lost in the mix. Overall, it feels like a bloated soap opera. For those interested in seeing a good Robert Aldrich movie, you can scan the theater marquee in the movie for the name of one. For me, the best moment in the movie was a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance of Dick Miller as a reporter, and the fun I had speculating about certain similarities between this movie and another Kim Novak movie made for a rather famous director.

The Little Shop of Horrors (1960)

Article #1717 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-26-2005
Posting Date: 4-25-2006
Directed by Roger Corman
Featuring Jonathan Haze, Jackie Joseph, Mel Welles

A simpleton is on the verge of losing his job at a florist’s shop on skid row, but is given a chance to keep his job if he nurses a crossbred plant back to health. He then discovers that the plant feeds on human blood….

I can’t believe that it took as long as it did for this movie to finally make it to this series. It’s been a favorite of mine ever since I viewed it on my local Creature Feature, and it was the first movie I ever bought after I purchased a VCR. It’s also one of the easiest movies to find on video, as it is not only in the public domain but easy to market as well (just put it together with THE TERROR and market it as a Jack Nicholson double feature). For me, it was also one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen.

I still love the movie to this day. It has a dizzying array of memorable characters and great performances. Jonathan Haze gives his best performance as Seymour Krelboyne, the hopeless incompetent who is forced to turn to murder in order to keep his job; Jackie Joseph and Mel Welles are also excellent as the dim but lovable Audrey Fulquard and the testy but greedy Gravis Mushnik, both of whom spout malaprops with alarming consistency. There is also a man who eats flowers (Dick Miller), Seymour’s hypochondriac mother (Myrtle Vail), a woman in need of a constant supply of carnations for the funerals of her many relations (Leola Wendorff), a sadistic dentist (John Shaner) and his masochistic patient (Jack Nicholson in a hilarious cameo), two dragnet-style cops (Wally Campo and Jack Warford) whose only real method of detection is to be in the right place in the right time. There are other characters as well, but in many ways, I think the real star is Charles Griffith, who was given by Roger Corman the task of cloning his script for the successful BUCKET OF BLOOD, and did such an amazing job of converting a dark satire into a slapstick farce that unless you were aware of it, you might not notice that the story is same in both of the movies. Furthermore, Griffith plays four roles in the movie as well, most notably as a burglar who tries to rob Mushnik and the voice of the plant, Audrey Jr., and he does such a fine job in both roles that it’s a shame he didn’t do more acting. To this day, I still find it one of the funniest comedies around, and a perfect example of just how good a low-budget movie can be with a strong script and a good cast.

The Legend of Boggy Creek (1972)

Article #1715 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-24-2005
Posting Date: 4-23-2006
Directed by Charles B. Pierce
Featuring Vern Stierman, Chuck Pierce, William Stumpp

A hairy monster wanders the wooded areas around Boggy Creek in Fouke, Arkansas.

When it comes to real-life monsters like this, I tend towards skepticism, but I recognize in myself a romantic desire to want to believe in their existence. This movie actually addresses this issue; the final narration grants the viewer the privilege to dismiss it as a hoax, but it does urge you to keep your eyes on the wooded areas near the roads should you ever be in the area, and I’m willing to bet that if I did make it down to Fouke, I would keep my eyes open. The movie itself is a mixed bag, but it is quite effective at moments; the locations are authentic and genuinely eerie, many of the characters are real people (I particularly liked Herb Jones, a hermit living deep in the bottoms who has a nearby tree decorated with bottles that he uses for fishing and who, incidentally, denies the existence of the monster), and at times there are interesting little touches of detail (I liked the fact that when the man is wheeled into the hospital, we get a quick glimpse of the hole in his sock). The recreation of the encounters with the beast are a mixed bag. The best involves a boy running into the woods with his rifle in the hope of bagging a deer, and the way the camera follows him as he runs for a spurt and then stops to listen for the howling of the dogs, runs again, etc. until he he suddenly finds himself facing the monster is wonderful. Far less convincing is the final third of the movie, a lengthy reconstruction of the story of two families who have moved to the area and encounter the monster. I also have little use for the sappy songs that pop up on occasion, but I could watch that eerie scenery for hours on end. Whether the monster exists or not, it’s obvious that the filmmakers used the spooky locations very well indeed.

Legacy of Blood (1971)

Article #1714 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-23-2005
Posting Date: 4-22-2006
Directed by Carl Monson
Featuring Rodolfo Acosta, Merry Anders, Norman Bartold

Several heirs gather at the estate of an eccentric relative, and discover they must stay a week at the family estate if they hope to inherit their money. Someone begins to pick them off one by one…

Arrghh! Once again, I find a review I wrote five months ago has vanished, and I have to start from scratch. Yes, I could watch the movie again, but I don’t recall being particularly impressed with it the first time, and it certainly didn’t stick in my memory well enough to go over any details. The plot description should clue you in; it’s just an early seventies update of that old favorite, the “Old Dark House” plot. However, this being the early seventies, a few things are different; primarily, it’s bloodier and the characters are almost universally unpleasant. You should figure out one of the major twists in the story if you find it hard to believe that John Carradine would be used only in a short flashback and on the taped “reading of the will”. There is a certain rudimentary interest in seeing Faith Domergue and Jeff Morrow working together again, though.

The Last Days of Pompeii (1959)

Article #1706 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-15-2005
Posting Date: 4-14-2006
Directed by Mario Bonnard
Featuring Steve Reeves, Christine Kaufmann, Fernando Rey

A centurion returns to Pompeii to find that his family has been killed and robbed by a band of hooded murderers who leave crosses painted on the homes of their victims. He vows to find out who was responsible.

This movie opens with the slaughter of the centurion’s family. Once I saw the cross painted on the wall, I was able to figure out the moral arc of the story in just a couple of minutes. You can, too, with the help of this simple set of questions to ponder.

1) Given that the event at the end of this movie can be rightly called and Act of God, just what sort of behavior would have inspired God to perform such an act? (And if you don’t know how the movie is going to end, look at the title one more time and use your knowledge of history.)

2) What do you think the odds are that this movie would actually have a Christian sect be responsible for the sadistic murders of the family when there are paganistic worshippers of Isis also in the story?

3) Irrespective of who the real murderers are, who do you think will be blamed for the murders by the Roman government in charge of Pompeii?

4) What do you think the Roman government will do to the people who they believe are guilty of the murders? (Hint: The answer to this question is the same as that of the one to question one.)

That should keep you busy for a couple minutes.

However, there’s still the question of the movie’s fantastic content to deal with. This movie is listed as Fantasy by the multi-volume THE MOTION PICTURE GUIDE from the eighties, but I seriously question this classification. Granted, many of the sword-and-sandal movies of the time did indeed have fantastic content, but this isn’t one of them. Steve Reeves is the hero, but he’s not super-strong here; I’d say his acts do fall within the bounds of that of a really strong man. There are also no monsters here, unless one crocodile counts. It is, in some ways, a better than average example of the genre; the story is easy to follow, the dubbing is much better than usual, and Fernando Rey makes an excellent villain. Still, the fight scenes seem poorly paced and rather stiff, and even the spectacular eruption sequence falls very short of what it would be like in real life. This one is a mixed bag.

Love Slaves of the Amazons (1957)

Article #1590 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-22-2005
Posting Date: 12-19-2005
Directed by Curt Siodmak
Featuring Don Taylor, Gianna Segale, Eduard Ciannelli

An archaeologist agrees to make an expedition into the jungles of Brazil to find a lost city of Amazons.

Here it is, three days running and I’m still in the jungle. I think I’ve contracted jungle fever as well. This might explain why I was unable to pick up the early clues to the real nature of this movie. The first is the title itself; just how seriously can you take a movie with this title? The second is the fight scene that occurs about one-third of the way into the movie. When a fight scene largely consists of people being thrown into mud, it’s more of a sign of comedy than drama. No, I was taken in by the fact that the movie more or less carries itself with a certain amount of seriousness and dignity for its first half. Still, even if I had heeded the clues, I don’t think I would have been prepared for the quantum leap in goofiness the movie takes once our hero is captured by the Amazons, and a scene where the hero is forcibly given a bath by a gaggle of giggling elderly Amazon women left my mouth hanging open. The next twenty minutes consists largely of giggling and catfighting (on the part of the Amazons) and leering and gawking (on the part of the hero). Sure, the movie makes a half-assed attempt to take itself seriously again once he escapes, but by that time you pretty much know you’ve watched a comedy. Incidentally, this movie was shot in Brazil, with what looks like an assortment of Brazilian actors in the cast. This goes a long way towards explaining why several of the characters sound like Paul Frees.